This Windows Installer Installs Linux

It may be a very long time since some readers have installed a copy of Windows, but it appears at one point during the installation there’s a step that asks you which OS version you would like to install. Normally this is populated by whichever Windows flavours come on the install medium, but [Naman Sood] has other ideas. How about a Windows installer with Alpine Linux as one of the choices? Sounds good to us.

You can see it in action in the video below the break. Indeed Alpine Linux appears as one of the choices, followed by the normal Windows licence accept screen featuring the GPL instead of any MS text. The rest of the installer talks about installing Windows, but we can forgive it not expecting a Linux install instead.

So, the question we’re all asking is: how is it done? The answer lies in a WIM file, a stock Windows image which the installer unpacks onto your hard drive. The Linux distro needs to be installable onto an NTFS root partition, and to make it installable there’s a trick involving the Windows pre-installation environment.

This is an amusing hack, but the guide admits it’s fragile and perhaps not the most useful. Even so, the sight of Linux in a Windows installer has to be worth it.

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Linux Fu: Stupid Systemd Tricks

Last time, I gave a whirlwind introduction to a very small slice of systemd. If you aren’t comfortable with systemd services, timers, and mounts, you might want to read that now. Otherwise, press on to see a few interesting uses for custom systemd units, including running a few things on a schedule and automatically mounting a Raspberry Pi Zero.

Can you do every one of these things in a different way? Of course you can. I’m not debating the relative merits of using or not using systemd. However, unless you totally control your own environment, good chance you are going to have to interact with systemd at some point.

Stupid Trick #1: Update Your IP Address

A few years ago, I talked about updating your remote DNS server with your public IP address. This lets you refer to a hostname like and get back to your computer that often changes IP addresses. Sure, you can get services to do that for you, but you must either pay or agree to read ads on their site to keep your hostname going. This is all under your control. In the original post, I suggested using cron or NetworkManager to run the update script. I also hinted you could do it with systemd, but I didn’t tell you how. Let’s fix that.

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Linux Fu: Getting Started With Systemd

I will confess. I started writing this post about some stupid systemd tricks. However, I wanted to explain a little about systemd first, and that wound up being longer than the tricks. So this Linux Fu will be some very fundamental systemd information. The next one will have some examples, including how to automount a Raspberry Pi Pico. Of course, by the end of this post, you’ll have only scratched the surface of systemd, but I did want to give you some context for reading through the rest of it.

Like many long-time Unix users, I’m not a big fan of systemd. Then again, I’m also waiting for the whole “windows, icon, mouse, pointer” fad to die down. Like it or not, systemd is here and probably here to stay for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to get into a flame war over systemd. Love it or hate it, it is a fact of life. I will say that it does have some interesting features. I will also say that the documentation has gotten better over time. But I will also say that it made many changes that perhaps didn’t need to be made and made some simple things more complicated than they needed to be.

In the old days, we used “init scripts,” and you can still do so if you are really motivated. They weren’t well documented either, but it was pretty easy to puzzle out the shell scripts that would run, and we all know how to write shell scripts. The systemd way is to use services that are not defined by shell scripts. However, systemd tries to do lots of other things, too. It can replace cron and run things periodically. It can replace inetd, syslog, and many other traditional services. This is a benefit or a drawback, depending on your point of view.

(Editor’s note: And this logging functionality was exactly what was abused in last week’s insane liblzma / ssh backdoor.)

Configuring systemd requires you to create files in one of several locations. In systemd lingo, they are “units.” For the purpose of this Linux Fu, we’ll look at only a few kinds of units: services, mounts, and timers. Services let you run programs in response to something like system start-up. You can require that certain other services are already running or are not running and many other options. If the service dies, you can ask systemd to automatically restart it, or not. Timers can trigger a service at a particular time, much like cron does. Another unit you’ll run into are sockets that represent — you guessed it — a network socket.

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Is Your Mental Model Of Bash Pipelines Wrong?

[Michael Lynch] encountered a strange situation. Why was compiling then running his program nearly 10x faster than just running the program by itself? [Michael] ran into this issue while benchmarking a programming project, pared it down to its essentials for repeatability and analysis, and discovered it highlighted an incorrect mental model of how bash pipelines worked.

Here’s the situation. The first thing [Michael]’s pared-down program does is start a timer. Then it simply reads and counts some bytes from stdin, then prints out how long it took for that to happen. When running the test program in the following way, it takes about 13 microseconds.

$ echo '00010203040506070809' | xxd -r -p | zig build run -Doptimize=ReleaseFast
bytes: 10
execution time: 13.549µs

When running the (already-compiled) program directly, execution time swells to 162 microseconds.

$ echo '00010203040506070809' | xxd -r -p | ./zig-out/bin/count-bytes
bytes: 10
execution time: 162.195µs

Again, the only difference between zig build run and ./zig-out/bin/count-bytes is that the first compiles the code, then immediately runs it. The second simply runs the compiled program. Continue reading “Is Your Mental Model Of Bash Pipelines Wrong?”

a CH32V003 Linux-bearing PCB, single-sided, hand-etched, lovely

Bring Linux To CH32V003 Through, Yes, RISC-V Emulation

Like playing around with Linux on low-power devices? You’d be hard pressed to find a better example than the [tvlad1234]’s linux-ch32v003 project. It’s not just a one-off — it’s something you could build right now, since it requires hardly any extra parts.

With help of a 8 MB PSRAM chip for RAM supplementation purposes and an SD card, plus some careful tailoring of the Linux .config parameters, you get Linux on a chip never meant to even come close to handling this much power. The five minutes it takes to boot up to a prompt is part of the experience.

As usual with [tvlad1234]’s projects, there’s a fun twist to it! Running Linux on this chip is only possible thanks to [chlohr]’s mini-rv32ima project, which, as you might remember, is a RISC-V emulator. Yes, this runs Linux by running a RISC-V emulator on a RISC-V chip. The main reason for that is because the MCU can’t map the PSRAM chip into RAM, but if you use an emulator, memory mapping is only a matter of software. Having applied a fair amount of elbow grease, [tvlad1234] brings us buildroot and mainline Linux kernel configs you can compile to play with this — as well as a single-layer-ready KiCad board project on GitHub. Yep, you could literally etch a PCB for this project from single-sided copper-clad FR4 with a bit of FeCl3.

While the CH32V003 is undoubtedly a more impressive target for Linux, the RP2040 Linux project might be more approachable in terms of having most of the parts in your parts box. At least, up until we start valuing the CH32V003 for all the cool stuff it can do!

What Is X86-64-v3?

You may have heard Linux pundits discussing x86-64-v3. Can recompiling Linux code to use this bring benefits? To answer that question, you probably need to know what x86-64-v3 is, and [Gary Explains]… well… explains it in a recent video.

If you’d rather digest text, RedHat has a recent article about their experiments using the instructions set in RHEL10. From that article, you can see that most of the new instructions support some enhancements for vectors and bit manipulation. It also allows for more flexible instructions that leave their results in an explicit destination register instead of one of the operand registers.

Of course, none of this matters for high-level code unless the compiler supports it. However, gcc version 12 will automatically vectorize code when using the -O2 optimization flags.

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Steampipe: All SQL All The Time

Although modern Linux has slightly shifted, the old Unix mantra was: everything’s a file. With Steampipe, a better saying might be: everything’s a SQL table. The official tagline is “select * from cloud” which also works. The open-source program relies on plugins, and there are currently 140 sources ranging from GitHub to Google Sheets and more.

There are command line interfaces for the major platforms. You can also add the system to PostgresSQL or SQLite for even more SQL goodness. Continue reading “Steampipe: All SQL All The Time”